St. Catharines man says MPP Sam Oosterhoff used police as 'muscle' after tweet

A St. Catharines man says a police officer who visited him at home after he tweeted out the address and phone number of MPP Sam Oosterhoff's parents is an example of a politician using law enforcement as "muscle" to scare him.

MPP says he contacted police out of fear for his family's safety

Tory MPP Sam Oosterhoff says he contacted police about the tweet sharing his family's address and phone number because it made him fear for their safety. (Radio-Canada)

A St. Catharines man says a police officer who visited him at home after he tweeted out the address and phone number of MPP Sam Oosterhoff's parents is an example of a politician using law enforcement as "muscle" to scare him.

But Oosterhoff says the tweet crossed a line and he contacted police over fear for his family's safety.

A spokesperson for Niagara police confirmed the service received a call about "potential harassment" in the form of a home address being shared on social media on Dec. 28.

Rob Gill took to Twitter after seeing a video of the Niagara West MPP along with Premier Doug Ford smiling and clapping during a Christmas celebration hosted by Canadian Christian College president Charles McVety.

In the since-deleted social media post, Gill wrote "This Christmas, let's protest @samoosterhoff and his bigot, misogynistic and homophobic personality & upbringing. Let's protest at his parents home ... or give them a call."

The tweet included both the family's address and their phone number, along with the hashtag #hateraiseshate.

"I know some people might say 'Why did you do that? It's stepping over the line.' I don't think it's stepping over a line because that's information that's in the public domain," explained Gill. "That's information someone can choose to keep public or keep private and they've chosen to keep it public and this is the result of that."

He added he deleted the tweet shortly after posting it because it wasn't getting a lot of "traction."

MPP says he feared for family's safety

In a statement to CBC News, Oosterhoff said he appreciates hearing both positive and negative feedback from constituents, but the tweet and "disparaging language" in this case led him to contact the Niagara Regional Police.

"Fearing from my family's safety I contacted the police," he wrote. "The police followed their own protocol and I am very grateful for their dedication to our community."

To have a politician use police as some kind of muscle isn't cool.- Rob Gill

Gill said he didn't threaten Oosterhoff and has tried to start a dialogue with him over his personal beliefs in the past through Twitter and by phone, but has never heard back.

"At no point do I ever wish any harm against him or his family or loved ones. At the same time, if he's going to continue to bring his private religious views into his public office he needs to be prepared for people protesting him at any means we can figure out."

When Gill saw the video of the politician standing with McVety, who has previously said he's against the former Liberal government's sex-ed curriculum and same-sex marriage, he was motivated to speak out.

"If you're an elected official you represent all Ontarians, regardless of their sexual orientation, their socioeconomic status, their beliefs, their skin colours, all Ontarians."

Gill is gay and married to a man from Brazil where far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro, who has made derisive comments about black and gay people, will be sworn in as president Tuesday.

"[My husband] comes from a place where you can't speak your mind and if you speak your mind you risk losing your life," explained Gill. "So have the police appear at our home, for me speaking my mind is a big issue.

"To have a politician use police as some kind of muscle isn't cool."

Police received call about 'potential harassment'

Niagara police spokesperson Stephanie Sabourin​ said after receiving the call about the potential harassment, an officer wasn't able to reach the person who posted the address by phone so stopped by on Dec. 29 to "caution them regarding sharing personal information on social media which could be perceived as harassing."

No charges have been laid.

Sabourin added that with the popularity of social media, when possible, police try to inform and educate members of the public about what could be "potentially deemed criminal in nature."

Gill said he's aware of the law and didn't need a "lecture."

He claims the officer who knocked at his door around 9 a.m. said he had done nothing wrong, but Oosterhoff had complained about some of the things he was posting online.

At the end of a five-minute conversation the they shook hands and the officer went on his way.

"At no point did he caution me about further engaging with Mr. Oosterhoff online or charge me or cite me or anything," said Gill.

"I found it really odd that we have the police attending my home, unannounced, when no crime has taken place to lecture me on what a law is. I found that really strange and kind of a waste of police resources."

But a spokesperson for Oosterhoff said it is her understanding that  Gill was cautioned by police about communicating with him and disclosing personal information through social media.